I've been a dancer since the age of three, and have learned a thing or two about what it takes to stay hydrated, energized, and well fed throughout a full day of dance. Our dance moms may have packed our lunches when we were little, but eventually, we had to figure out for ourselves which foods were good to eat before, after, or during practice.

Although I've come up with some weird and strange food combinations in the past, I've also discovered some of the best snacks and meals to keep a dancer energized. 

What Not To Eat!

First, let's talk about what you shouldn't consume before a long night or day of dancing. These foods may be easy to grab on the go, but they are damaging or unhelpful to a dancer's body.

1. Candy

candy, Reeses, Halloween
Emma Salters

Although a little bit of sugar is great at competitions to get your energy levels up quickly, it's not good to eat for a full day of practice. Eating candy causes sugar highs and, eventually, crashes which impact your energy levels as well as your mood! Dips in either of these aren't fun for you or your teammates, so avoid eating candy before class.

2. Fast Foods

food, Shake Shack, burger, Nyc, cheeseburger, nyceats, nycfood
Katie Kasperson

While you might feel tempted to buy these foods if you're running late to practice, they're not good for your exercising body. Fast foods can upset your digestive system or give you stomach pains during class. Either of these can impact your concentration, which is not good.

3. Big Meals

avocado, brunch, avocado toast, fries, sandwich, overhead, Meal, vegetable, salad, tomato, sauce, meat, pasta, lunch
Denise Uy

Just like the full feeling you get after you eat Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, big meals at any time of the year can make you feel bloated like a balloon. Before a practice, chowing down will make you lethargic and slow. This feeling doesn't help you, so it's best to avoid these meals before dancing. 

What Do You Eat Before?

What should you eat before a practice to ensure you have the energy, brain power, and the stamina to keep up with all your classes? Foods that give you the proper vitamins, nutrients, and proteins will keep you satisfied and prepared for all your dancing!

1. Protein

meat, chicken, pork, barbecue, beef, sauce
Christin Urso

Protein is essential—it gives the body the energy it needs to keep dancing. Snacks like peanut butter and banana or a meal like a grilled chicken breast give you the right amount of protein to keep you going without making you feel too full.

2. Fruits and Vegetables

apple, juice, sweet, pasture
Santina Renzi

I'm sure your parents have told you the importance of eating your fruits and veggies. Guess what? They were right! Things like apples with cheese or veggies and yogurt dip are light snacks that can tide you over during class, and keep you satisfied until you can eat a real meal later. Combining them with dairy or protein also gives them a little more energizing power. 

3. Whole Grains

cereal, bread, wheat, rye, flour, wheat bread, grain
Jasmine Chan

While eating an excessive amount of carbohydrates can be unhealthy, the right carbs are essential to providing you with long-lasting energy in your day. A snack of avocado and whole wheat toast can provide your body with some stored energy that it can use later when you begin to get tired. 

While a lot of carbs are bad for you, and can weigh you down during a dance class, some are good in providing you with some long lasting energy to keep you dancing for longer. Things like a snack of avocado and whole wheat toast can provide your body with some stored energy that it can use later on when you begin to get tired. 

4. Water

ice, water, splash, cup of water, water cup, water splash, dropping ice
Jocelyn Hsu

The most important thing for your body while dancing is to stay hydrated. No matter how well-fed you are, if your body isn't properly hydrated, you won't be dancing to your full potential. It's important to go into a dance class already properly hydrated, and with a full water bottle by your side. 

5. Antioxidants

berry, pasture, blueberry, sweet, bilberry, blackberry
Jocelyn Hsu

Need a little more help focusing on learning and retaining your dances? Try antioxidants! They help protect and enhance the brains functions, like memory and focus, and can help keep your head in the game! Eating a quick snack like blueberries will help you achieve this. 

What Do You Eat After?

Just like the fuel you put into your body before dance class, you have to recharge and refuel with the same kinds of foods afterwards. They help replenish the stores in your body and make sure it gets the repair and rest it needs. 

1. H20

water, beer, iced water, ice, glass, water cup
Jocelyn Hsu

Again, your body needs all the water it can possibly get! After a full day of dance or even just a couple classes, you've sweat out a ton of the water you put in. It's important to keep chugging down that water afterwards to help with muscle soreness and prevent post dancing dehydration. However, remember not to drink too much water without adding some electrolytes to balance out the water-salt ratio in your body.

2. Fruit

mango, mangos, Fruit, Healthy, fruits, eating mango
Jocelyn Hsu

Again, getting your fill of fruits will help you before and after dance practice! When you're dancing, you're using up glucose, and eating fruit afterwards is an easy and healthy way to replenish your body's stores. It aids in muscle development too, so you can eat delicious fruit and show off your gains all at once.

3. Protein

salmon, seafood, fish, salmon fillet, Protein
Jocelyn Hsu

You need to be able to replenish your body's stores of energy after a long day of practice, and the easiest way to do this is to make yourself a meal with protein. It's equally as important to eat after as it is before, and will do your bodies wonders. Try a meal of fish, tofu, or grilled chicken with vegetables.  

4. Chocolate Milk

coffee, tea, espresso, chocolate, beer, milk, Chocolate milk, dairy, beverage
Caroline Ingalls

This is the trick used by professional athletes and deeply enjoyed by the rest of us! Chocolate milk, when consumed moderately, is a great way to get a quick dose of sugars to bring your energy levels up in a minute. It's proven that it is helpful with muscle replenishment, which is great after a full dance workout.

5. Potassium

vegetable, spinach
Kathleen Lee

One of the most important things to do after a long workout of dance is to stretch out and cool down. However, sometimes, no matter how long and hard you stretch it out, you'll still get cramps. An easy fix? Potassium! Snacks like bananas, raisins, cooked spinach or potatoes offer a kick of potassium that will help prevent muscle cramping and soreness. If you don't have time to snack, a drink with high potassium like orange juice or grapefruit juice will do the trick!

This list will come in handy if you want to learn the ins and outs of eating before and after dance practice. Eventually, you'll have a list of go-to snacks and meals that help you the most. Make sure to keep snacking, keep hydrating, and keep dancing!